It must have been a month or six weeks ago I got a call from a friend who doesn't drive asking "How's the public transportation in the LRGV?". I can't remember if I was able to choke down a laugh or not, because the reality is it's easier to get a bus to Monterrey, Mexico than it is to get a bus from Brownsville to McAllen, much less any sort of birding area bus. Some areas have excellent public transport, like South Padre Island, but it would generally be difficult for birders to get to birding sites using only public transport.
That was the start of the discussions that lead to my going birding with four birders from my old stomping grounds in Ohio across the LRGV - in three and a half days. Day one was described in my previous post http://marybirds.blogspot.com/2016/02/cameron-county-run-arounds.html.
Thursday the guys seemed more awake (having had an hour and a half's sleep at best on Tuesday's drive in from Laredo in the wee hours). We headed to Santa Ana, where we spent some time watching the feeders and the Plain Chachalaca's antics as the volunteers filled the feeders at 8 AM. We walked out to the Willow Lakes, and after watching the Cinnamon Teal (that's an oxymoron) and Least Grebe, and hearing a Northern Beardless-Tyrannulet, we kept going on out to Pintail Lake. At Pintail, we joined the masses watching one or the other of the Northern Jacana juvenals, admiring the stately American Bittern, tawny brightness of the Fulvous Whistling-Ducks, Eared Grebe, Bufflehead, and the masses and masses of roosting shorebirds on the southeastern-most lake. Did I mention these guys liked to walk?
We wandered back to the HQ, made the obligatory stop in the gift shop, and headed to Estero. Unfortunately my digiscoping phone smashed into a million smithereens in the parking lot at Santa Ana, so I have few photos.
It wouldn't be a visit to the LRGV without a stop at Estero Llano Grande State Park. We started with a little sit at the hummer feeders, where we quickly had all three hummers (Buff-bellied, Black-chinned, and Ruby-throated). We headed out to the 17 Yellow-crowned Night-Herons and the Common Pauraque, which was a hit all around. We wandered back to the deck and decided to go for tacos at Nanas.
After tacos it was time for Frontera. I know, I know, Frontera is not at its best in the heat of a hot and windy day. But how else to squeeze everything in? We mostly missed the rarities, but there were still new birds coming in to the feeders. I was the only one to see the Zone-tailed when it flew over, so we stayed on the deck after closing and waited for the vultures to come in. We didn't have to wait long before the immature came in and sailed by a few times, yellow cere and legs shining in the evening sun and the barred flight feathers and tail obvious. Later, an adult with a more boldly banded tail appeared, and then it was an immature again. Tim was able to find a high-flying Purple Martin (year tick!) and get me on it.
Since it was already late, we drove around between Texas/88, Border, 12th street, and Business 83 until we found 4 Red-crowned Parrots. These loud raucous birds perched in a tree top and we watched them preen, until another group with a Yellow-headed Parrot joined them. They quickly flew off, and we followed one group and another until we found a citrus tree loaded with fruit - and parrots. The birds were lined up on the wires holding fruit and more were in the trees. They spooked again (cover your ears!) and they were off to a Chinaberry tree, where we were able to set up a scope and find some Lilac-crowned Parrots with the Red-crowneds and Yellow-headed. That was a long day, and a good one.